Donald Trump has already been indicted by a grand jury in New York, but with several other ongoing criminal investigations underway, the former president seems awfully nervous about the possibility of additional charges.
On the investigation into his retention of classified documents, for example, the Republican published an item to his social media platform two weeks ago, calling the scandal a “hoax.” (It’s not.) The missive came just days after Trump, giving a post-arraignment speech at Mar-a-Lago, peddled a series of related falsehoods about the case.
It was against this backdrop that the former president sent a remarkable new appeal to Capitol Hill yesterday. The New York Times reported:
Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump asked lawmakers on Wednesday to place the intelligence community in charge of assessing Mr. Trump’s handling of the classified documents found in his possession after leaving office, saying Congress should strip the Justice Department of authority to run the investigation.
If this sounds outlandish, that’s because it is. In a 10-page letter to the House Intelligence Committee, Trump’s lawyers — in all seriousness — argued that they believe a “legislative solution” by Congress is “required” to prevent federal prosecutors from pursuing the case further.
The letter proposed that the Justice Department “should be ordered to stand down.”
In case this isn’t painfully obvious, there is absolutely no way that Congress will pass legislation — to be signed by President Joe Biden — derailing an ongoing federal criminal investigation.
What’s more, if the legislative branch were to even consider such a step, it would be an outrageous abuse. The fact that Team Trump even made such an appeal is ridiculous and reflects an overwhelming level of anxiety about the seriousness of the scrutiny.
University of Michigan law professor Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. Attorney and an MSNBC legal analyst, added this morning, “Surely, they know this request is a non-starter that would violate separation of powers. [This] looks more like a PR move on the eve of indictment.”
Making matters worse, the former president’s lawyers took this opportunity to present a relatively detailed defense of their client, but their pitch can charitably be described as incomplete.
As a Washington Post report explained, the 10-page letter “focuses mostly on Trump’s alleged conduct before — not after — a May subpoena demanded he return classified documents kept after his presidency. Trump’s post-subpoena conduct is a key focus of the investigation. ... The letter’s defense of the former president focuses primarily on Trump’s conduct in early 2022, as the National Archives and Records Administration sought to retrieve presidential records from him.”
That's not a great sign for the potential defendant.
As for the road ahead, federal prosecutors will likely shrug their shoulders in response to the former president’s appeal to Capitol Hill, though there is one thing to keep an eye on: Will any of Trump’s sycophantic congressional allies actually try to pursue his proposed “legislative solution,” or will they ignore the letter, too?